Laos is the country in Southeast Asia that has the lowest
population density; In 2019, it averaged 30 residents per km2.
The most densely populated is the Mekong Valley along the
border with Thailand, while especially the mountain regions
in the north and east are sparsely populated.
As a result of the relocation of Laotian refugees from
Thailand, the population increase exceeded 3 percent per
year during the 1990s. International relocations now have
Laos has low urbanization, and about 65 percent of
residents still live in the countryside. The only major city
is Vientiane, which in 2015 had 620,200 residents.
For information on life expectancy and other demographic
statistics, see Country facts.
Based on Digopaul, Lao's population is composed of some 40 ethnic groups,
many of which, however, amount to only a few thousand
individuals. Mon-Khmer-speaking tribal people represent the
original population. In the country's northern and central
parts, these include scallops, which are the
largest group, as well as the lamb in the
northwest. Farther south there is sow and furthest
south lives, among other things. the law,
bridge and cow. The Monkhmer people make up
about 25 percent of the population. They feed predominantly
on sweat farming with mountain rice as a base crop and
supplement the catch with river fishing, hunting and
gathering. Their traditional religion is animistic, and
shamans and spiritual priests are of great importance to the
religious and political life of the villages.
The majority of Lao's population (69 percent) is made up
of Thai-speaking people, who from the 12th century
immigrated from Yunnan in southern China. Due to superior
political and military organization, they succeeded in
establishing themselves as rulers in most parts of the
country. The derogatory term kha ('slaves'),
sometimes still used by the monk people, derives from the
conquest of the Tao people. The majority of the Tao people
belong to the Lao ethnic group, which is the
majority in northeastern Thailand as well. Lao already
formed in the 1300s a kingdom around Luang Prabang, which
remained the royal capital of Laos until the revolution in
1975. The dominance of the Lao people was reinforced by the
fact that during the colonial period the French mainly
employed Lao as officials in all parts of Laos. Other taiga
groups aretai dam ('black tai'), tai khao
('white tai') and tai l邦 in the north, phuan,
which until the 19th century formed a state on the
Xiangkhoang plateau, and phuthai in the south. The
Thai people in principle feed on wetland cultivation in the
lowland areas, but many still receive their support from the
use of sweat. They are mostly Theravada Buddhists, but local
spirit cult plays a significant role alongside the temple in
During the 19th century, additional people immigrated
from the north. It was first and foremost the tribal people,
hmong, found in the mountains in the northern parts
of the country and whose number is estimated to be around
450,000. They feed on sweden farming with mountain rice and
maize as base crops, and their preference for cultivating
opium as a sales crop in the so-called golden the triangle
has reinforced the contradictions between them and the
Lao-dominated government. Other late immigrant peoples in
the northern parts of the country include the
Tibetan-Burmese tribes akha and lahu as
well as the original Tibetan-Burmese phunoi. Their
number is less than 50,000.
The political and cultural dominance of the Tai/Lao
people is also evident from the official ethnic
nomenclature, according to which the Lao population is
divided into three major groups: Lao Lum, which is
the lowland population, that is, predominantly Lao, and
which is considered to be dependent solely on wetland
cultivation, Lao Theung., which inhabit the
mountain slopes and which mainly comprise kammu, and lao
sung, the highland peoples, ie. hmong and the Tibetan
Burmese people. The two latter groups, which are
predominantly sweden farmers, are officially considered to
be responsible for most of the forest destruction in the
country. In fact, wastewater treatment is also practiced to
a considerable extent by lao lum, and state forestry
companies account for a significant part of the logging.
The main language Lao (Lao) is spoken by over 3 million
or about half of the residents. It belongs to the Thai
languages, as well as several minority languages, including
those with Lao closely related to white tai, black tai and
red tai, phuthai and l邦 (a total of about 1 million
speakers). Lao is a language of instruction in schools and
is largely identical to northeastern Thai, which is spoken
in the northeastern part of Thailand but is officially
regarded as a dialect of Thai.
Mon-Khmer languages have about 1 million speakers. Half
of these, in northern Laos, speak kammu; other major
monkhmer languages are bridge (60,000), kataang (90,000) and
A further two language families are represented: hmong -
miin language (miao-yao), about 250,000, and Tibetan Burmese
languages, about 130,000.
Today (2013), more than half the population is said to be
Buddhists by the theravada school, which has about 4,000
temples, 20,000 monks and 400 nuns in the country.
Buddhism can be traced back to the 1300s, when Laos was
united by King Fa Ngum. He received a number of monks who
brought palite texts and a Buddha statue from Sri Lanka; The
statue was called Pra-Bang and also came to name the Lao
royal capital, Luang Prabang. This variant of Buddhism is
primarily covered by the Lao ethnic group, which for the
most part lives in the lower-lying regions of the country.
Lao makes up 40-50 percent of the population. The rest
consists of almost 50 different ethnic groups. The practice
of religion in these groups is permeated by religious
beliefs and other animistic elements. The domestic
prohibitionist belief in spirits, phi, is inextricably
linked to Buddhism.
The Christian presence amounts to just under three
percent. The largest among these is the Lao Evangelical
Church (LEC), which mainly consists of various variants of
Methodism, which joined together in 1956. LEC goes back to,
among other things, the Swedish and Swiss mission that began
around the turn of the century 1900. LEC has over 400
parishes in the country and has state-recognized properties
in Vientiane, Savannakhet and Pakse. However, the oldest of
the Christian churches in the country is Lao's Catholic
Church. Catholicism came to the country in 1630 and today it
is estimated that almost 5,000 Laotians are Catholics. Most
of these are ethnic Vietnamese, who mainly live in the big
cities along the Mekong River in the central and southern
parts of the country. There are also small groups in the
land belonging to Jehovah's Witnesses, the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), various Pentecostal
traditions, Chinese folk religion, Confucianism, Taoism,
Hinduism, Bahai and Seventh-day Adventists. There are also a
smaller number of Muslims in the country.
Until the communist takeover of the state power in 1975,
Laos was a kingdom with Buddhism as a state religion.
According to the current Constitution, which is from 2003,
all citizens of the country have full religious freedom.
However, the Constitution prohibits activities that can
create contradictions between different religions or
contribute to class differences between them. This is often
interpreted by the Lao authorities as giving them the right
to restrict some religious practice among Buddhists,
"animists" and others. It is also used to limit Protestant
evangelism among minority groups.
A decree from the President (No. 92) allows proselytism
(conversion), but this must not be done by foreign
missionaries or evangelists; only Laotians may try to find
new members among their countrymen. The decree also requires
permits, which are complicated to obtain, for printing and
publishing religious material, owning and building worship
services, and having contact with foreign religious groups.
The permits are administered by the Lao Front for National
Construction (LFNC), which is responsible for matters
relating to religion. In some cases, for example for the
construction of new Buddhist temples, the Prime Minister's
approval is required. There is no information on religious
affiliation on identity cards, passports or in the
Four religions are recognized by the government of Laos:
Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Bahai, which has about
8,500 members. After the communist takeover of 1975,
Buddhism was persecuted, but today it is the exception to
many of the restrictions in Decree 92. The state sponsors
Buddhist activities and uses Buddhist rites and ceremonies
in official contexts. Buddhism is seen as an important
element of the country's cultural and spiritual identity and
in the public schools, teaching Buddhism is promoted.
Especially in the countryside, many boys get their education
in Buddhist temples. In the country there are two Buddhist
colleges and two colleges that offer both young and adult
The recognized Christian confessions are the Catholic
Church, the LEC and the Seventh-day Adventists. The LFNC
requires that all other Christian organizations must be
registered. In order not to be disconcerted, all Protestant
groups must join either the LEC or the Seventh-day
Adventists. The Christian communities run Sunday schools for
children and young people, though without the support of the
state but with financial assistance from other countries.
However, it happens that local government administrators are
denying Protestant communities to teach with reference to
Decree 92. The Catholic Church has a seminary in Thakhek.
Here, students with upper secondary education can pursue
studies in philosophy and theology for up to 10 years.
Muslim children are also offered religious education to a
The Laotian New Year is a national holiday celebrated
with Buddhist elements.